Betula pendula Roth. - syn.Betula verrucosa Ehrh. - Betulaceae - silver birch, European white birch, Hänge-Birke, Weißbirke, Sandbirke
Erect deciduous tree, up to 25m high; native to Europe, West Asia, Siberia; introduced into North America; with slender usually pendulous branches and white bark readily peeling off in layers; branches and leaves always without hairs; leaves rhombic-ovate, serrate, glutinous when young but glabrous and shining at maturity; petioles slender , strobiles on slender peduncles, usually pendulous, cylindric; wings of nutlet one and a half to two and a half times as broad as its body; blooming April-May.
Headspace volatiles were collected in situ from leaf-bearing branches of B.pendula.
„The main components in June samples, (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate (Z3C6Ac), (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol (Z3C6OH), (E)-β-ocimene, bourbonene, methyl salicylate, α-cubebene, and caryophellene, were also found in similar proportions in August, but at significantly lower levels. The sums of all volatiles also differed between seasons… Some monoterpenes (β-pinene, sabinene), GLVs [green-leaf volatiles] (hexanal, 1-hexanol), and sesquiterpenes (α-cubebene, bourbonene, and β-cubebene) were present in June samples in relatively large amounts, but were not detected in August. In contrast, (Z)-β-ocimene (5%), butanoic acid (1.9%) and pentanoic acid (34%) were found in August, but not in June.“
[Zhang, Qing-He, et al. „Leaf volatiles from nonhost deciduous trees: variation by tree species, season and temperature, and electrophysiological activity in Ips typographus.“ Journal of Chemical Ecology 25.8 (1999): 1923-1943]
The rectified oil of birch bark tar is used in perfumery for smoky-leathery-phenolic notes. The tar is manufactured by controlled heating of bark of various birch species (mainly white birch). Several methyl- and methoxy-substituted phenols and some naphtalene derivatives are found in the headspace of the tar (which is used in ancient times as adhesive for hafting lithic tools on wooden shaft or for repairing and decorating ceramic vessels). Volatile components of the liquid tar include phenol and derivatives like 2-methylphenol, 2-methoxyphenol (guaiacol), dimethoxyphenol, dimethylphenol, trimethylphenol, 2-methoxy-4-methylphenol, 4-ethyl-2-methoxyphenol e.g.; naphtalenes like methylnaphtalene, ethylnaphtalene, and trimethylnaphtalene, and sesquiterpenes like calamenene.
[Molecular characterisation of birch bark tar by headspace solid-phase microextraction gas chromatography-mass spectrometry: A new way for identifying archaeological glues., Regert, M., Alexandre, V., Thomas, N., Lattuati-Derieux, A., Journal of Chromatography A, 1101(1), 2006, 245-253]
The bark of Betula pendula (Betulae cortex) contains triterpene substances like betulin, betulinic acid, oleanolic acid and lupeol which are confirmed to posses very interesting (antiretroviral, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and apoptosis-inducing) pharmacological activities.
[Identification and isolation of pharmacologically active triterpenes in Betuale cortex, Betula pendula Roth., Betulaceae., Durić, K., Kalodera, Z., Sofić, E., Bosnian journal of basic medical sciences/Udruzenje basicnih mediciniskih znanosti= Association of Basic Medical Sciences, 9(1), 2009, 31-38]
Birch bark has been used as folk medicine externally for treatments of skin rashes, as well as in the form of compresses against abscesses; internally as decoction for skin diseases, dropsy and gout. Birch leaves are used as infusion for „spring cures“, gout and rheumatism and as diuretic for „blood purification“, externally against hair loss and dandruff. The effectiveness of the drug for all these indications has not been established.
[Hagers Handbuch der pharmazeutischen Praxis, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2010]
Köhler, F.E., Medizinal Pflanzen, vol.4, t.33 (1890) [Ev.C.]
© Rolf Marschner (2008), www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at